Mammoth updated its lodging guidelines for "essential" travelers
New lodging guidelines further reduce capacity for essential travelers, limiting stays to no more than 30% capacity.
The Town of Mammoth Lakes on Friday updated its transient lodging order to further “reduce rental capacity” for “essential travelers.” The new guidelines limit stays to no more than 30% capacity, but allows the guest self-attest to the essential nature of the stay.
Mono County is currently under the state’s regional Stay Home order, which prohibits short-term nightly rentals for recreational or leisure travel, but does allow essential travel for critical infrastructure workers including emergency services, energy and public health among other sectors.
The Mammoth Lakes Lodging Association last week proposed reopening plans, asking the Town to be lenient on enforcement and allow some capacity for short-term rentals despite the state’s order. The association says that illegal rentals are happening regardless of the stay-at-home order and many lodging operators say their businesses will not survive much longer.
“We are in a dire situation right now. We are not going to be able to continue, buildings are going to be empty, people are going to leave,” Heather Schaubmayer, whose family owns the Alpenhof, said at Wednesday’s Town Council meeting. “Please understand that health comes first, but people are coming here regardless—we can offer them a safe and controlled environment to stay in.”
Town Attorney Andrew Morris told the Town Council that he did not recommend defying the state order outright as it would risk critical funding. The Town cannot legally be less restrictive than the state, but they can change how they allocate enforcement resources, Morris said.
Most of the council members seemed to be in support of reallocation of enforcement resources, but within legal limits. There was no formal vote and the very long public zoom meeting ended with more conversations promised next week.
Then, on Friday evening, the Town issued its revised lodging guidelines with the new 30% capacity and an updated transient rental exemption form. The Town will not verify the essential nature of the guests before the stay, which seems to be a legal way to sidestep the state order and allow limited short-term nightly rentals.
Lodging operators were previously required to get approval for the essential nature of the traveler prior the stay. Some operators said they had lost essential stays because of the paperwork and slow response times from the Town’s code enforcement team.
“We were at a point where we were challenged on providing timely responses to people on the certification forms,” Holler wrote in an email. “We are short staffed in general so just getting to normal work processes is a challenge.”
The new process “places more responsibility on the lodging operator,” Holler said. The essential traveler form will then be submitted to the Town along with the monthly transient occupancy tax return by the 20th of each month.
The Mammoth Restaurant Association also asked the Town for lack of enforcement proposing 25% capacity indoors with additional safety measures, but the proposal did not gain traction as there seems to be no essential loophole for indoor dining.
“We had a request from the restaurant association that would be a direct flat-out violation of the state order, we are not able to move on that,” Holler said on Wednesday. “We are looking at trying to find a balance between the requirement of no outside dining, but allowing some public outdoor seating...”
A Few Quick Public Health Updates
Mono County has launched a confidential online vaccine questionnaire to assist the Public Health Department prioritize COVID-19 immunizations per CDC and CDPH guidelines. Once the questionnaire is submitted, you will be contacted to register for your vaccination appointment.
Over the last 7-day period Mono County has confirmed 99 cases of the coronavirus. The current 7-day positivity rate is 26.2%, which is significantly higher than the state average 13.6%. There is currently one covid-positive patient at Mammoth Hospital, according to the CDPH hospital dashboard.
Northern Inyo Hospital is running short on oxygen supplies and asked to borrow four oxygen concentrators from Mono County, according to Chief Frank Frievalt. There are currently 5 covid-positive patients hospitalized at Northern Inyo, according to CDPH. Last week there were seven new deaths in Inyo County bringing the total to 27 deaths.
As of Monday, January 11, Northern Nevada staffed hospitals beds are 76% occupied, according to the Nevada Hospital Association.
California’s current available ICU capacity by region:
Bay Area: 0.7%
Greater Sacramento: 9.7%
Northern California: 35%
San Joaquin Valley: 0.0%
Southern California: 0.0%
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Know the rules well, so you can break them effectively. ―The Dalai Lama